Your state, your standards, your learning progression

By Diana Blythe, Vice President of Content Development

Demanding that you “have it your way” could come across as pampered and self-centered, but for educators striving to deliver education that meets their state standards, having it “your way” really means having what you need to successfully teach to your state’s standards—no small task in an environment where educational standards are changing just about everywhere.

Here’s a bit of good news: Renaissance’s next wave of learning progression development will let educators in every state throughout the country start their year with a learning progression specifically developed to meet their state standards. Yes, in fall of 2015, Customers will see their state-specific learning progression at the heart of the Renaissance Star 360® assessments, Renaissance Accelerated Reader 360®, and Renaissance Accelerated Math®.

The work of developing a state-specific learning progression has been an immense undertaking. It began with understanding the standards themselves. For each state, we studied what makes that state’s standards unique. We asked, what are the expectations for skills, knowledge, and practices—and when are they expected to be met? We also asked the big question that helps teachers deliver instruction aligned to the standards: How can this information be used to transform expectations into a progression of skill development that advances educators and students to their end goal?

With this comprehensive understanding of the state’s standards, our content developers next began the process of actually building the state-specific reading and math learning progressions, starting with the kernels of learning development: the skills. This means that, for each and every standard, our developers identified the skills inherent in the standards. These became the building blocks, with the ordering of the learning progressions informed by nearly ten years of experience and data from millions of assessments. (For readers who want to take a deeper dive into the development process, this page of our website includes white papers and more on the Core Progress learning progressions.)

What does this mean for you? Whether you are an educator in Virginia, Indiana, Montana, Alabama, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, Maine, or any other state—you will start the 2015–2016 year with a clear articulation of skills for your grade and state. You will also start with a clear view of the context for those grade-level skills, because you will be able to see expectations from the previous grade and know where your journey with your students through the end of the year will take you.

You can also start your year with an understanding of where each of your student’s performance is in relation to your standards. How so? Each state-specific learning progression is placed on the STAR scale. After administering the assessment, the resulting scaled scores tell you where each student is performing in relation to the standards. From the beginning of the year, you will know which students are starting on track and which may need additional support to start their year of learning. And you will be prepared with tips and ideas for teaching targeted skills as well as thousands of new instructional resources.

At Renaissance, we are students too. The work of developing customized learning progressions for each state has required learning about and assigning meaning to the differences each state calls out, yet the work is ongoing. This deep knowledge will be continually enhanced and honed by your feedback on the learning progressions as well as the empirical data we capture on student practice and achievement. Essentially, whenever you use Renaissance software with your students, you inform the deeply powerful work of understanding how learning advances.

Diana Blythe, Vice President of Content Development
Diana Blythe, Vice President of Content Development
Diana Blythe has 20 years of experience developing educational software. She oversees content development and research, including the Core Progress learning progressions. Diana joined Renaissance in 1999. Prior to that she served as managing editor for Humanities Software.


  1. Karen McKinley says:

    Will their old data be converted to the new parameters this year so we can tell where our incoming students are? When can we get on and look at these new innovations?

    • Diana Blythe, Vice President of Content Development Diana Blythe says:

      Thanks so much for asking. Your school district’s Renaissance hosted site account master will select your district’s unique standard preference. Some states, such as Texas, use the Texas TEKS, while others, such as Virginia, use the Virginia SOLs, and many use the Common Core. Renaissance Learning also has a standard preference that uses skills from our Core Progress learning progressions.

      At the start of the school year, teachers are able to view new and incoming students’ test histories by scaled score. In the past there has not been a feature to view historical information on standards, but that is a terrific idea that we can add to our list to consider for future product development. We suggest you use STAR to assess your students within the first weeks of school, and use the standards report produced after that testing to inform your instruction. This will provide the most current and accurate information possible for those students.

      Customers will be able to view the new learning progressions once they are completed and rolled out starting on August 4. The actual date of availability will vary a little by state.

      Thank you for taking time to connect with us.

  2. Casey Ingouf says:

    After using Renaissance Learning for the past two years, I have found some things that I love and some things that need to be tweaked. I love that students and teachers can get instant feedback after finishing a STAR test. I love that I can print an informative report for students to evaluate and/or take home to their parents.

    What I wish could be better is when I enter the learning progression. As much as I would like to use it, it is overwhelming to find twenty to thirty standards that each student needs to work on “next”, and to have to organize that for 120 students. Yes, there are resources available for teaching specific skills, but the resources are paltry at best. Many of the resources repeat through the different standards. In addition, there is no easy way to assign the resources to students so that they can work on areas needing improvement. As a result of this weakness in the program, I am having to use other sites, such as Mobymax and Study Island, to assign specific learning activities for my students. This means they have to take yet another assessment test to find out specific skills that they need to work on.

    I would love to have the ability to see standards that one student or a pair of students need to work on, and to be able to assign, or have Renaissance automatically assign, specific web-based study sessions. A lot to ask for, I know, but definitely an improvement to the current program.

  3. Diana Blythe, Vice President of Content Development Diana Blythe says:

    Thank you for your comment, Casey. Our product development process has always incorporated customer feedback and input, and today—more than ever—we continually develop enhancements and release them in our products on an ongoing basis. I’m glad to have this opportunity to tell you about a few that will make STAR work even better for you.

    First, growing the skills-aligned resources in the STAR assessments is a high priority for our Content Development team. We now have more than 20,000 resources to support targeted instruction. In addition, we have a number of enhancements planned for release during the back-to-school time frame this fall. One of these is that we are working with additional vendors to identify, curate, and align third-party instructional resources to the learning progressions in order to make them available to our customers directly in STAR. As a result, this fall you’ll be able to easily find a much greater variety of useful, powerful, and appropriate targeted resources to support your teaching.

    To your point about managing the number of standards (or skills) STAR is identifying across all of your students, it may be worth exploring the flexible grouping feature in STAR’s Record Book. This will allow you to easily create groups of similarly performing students for instruction and progress monitoring. The groups can also be changed as needed to reflect student or teacher needs. If you have any questions on how to do this, just contact customer support, and we’ll walk you through it.

    I hope this helps!